By Will Johnson
Messenger Reporter

GRAPELAND – The landscape of Grapeland ISD will be changing in at least one and perhaps two major ways in the very near future. During a meeting of the GISD Board of Trustees held on Tuesday, Feb. 14, the board formally decided to place a bond initiative on the May 6 ballot in the amount of $7.75 million.

In addition, the board accepted GISD Superintendent Gregg Spivey’s letter of resignation/retirement effective at the end of the 2016-2017 school year.

Following the approval of several agenda items the board retired into executive session to discuss personnel matters and finalize the details of the proposed bond election. After nearly two hours behind closed doors, the board emerged with their recommendations.

Among the first items discussed after the executive session was the area of personnel. Spivey recommended the board approve one-year contract extensions, along with three percent pay hikes, to High School Principal Rick Frauenberger, Elementary Principal Don Jackson and Athletic Director Wayne Mahaffey. The contract extensions were unanimously approved.

The next item addressed concerned Spivey’s retirement. GISD Board President Eddie Childress read a letter from the superintendent which stated, “This letter is to inform you after over 30 years of employment in the education field – the last 15 as superintendent – I plan to retire at the end of the 2016-2017 school year. My last official day will Friday, June 30, 2017.”

“I have truly enjoyed my time here at GISD and I truly appreciate all you have done for me,” Spivey’s letter continued. “I have been blessed to have such a caring, cohesive board who has always put the best interests of the students first.  Thank you again and if there is anything I can do to help with the transition to a new superintendent, or anything else that comes up for that matter, please let me know. I wish you continued success in the future.”

Once Childress finished reading the letter, Spivey addressed the board.

“It’s like the letter said, it has been a blessing to work here and to work for y’all. You have been an awesome school board and I’ve appreciated every minute of it,” Spivey said.

The last item discussed by the trustees concerned calling for a bond election on May 6 to finance a new elementary school in the amount of $7.75 million. After the motion was made and seconded, the measure passed by a 5-1 margin.

Board member Josh Goolsby was absent from the meeting and Board Vice-President Paul Oliver voted against the bond. Oliver explained he wasn’t against the measure completely nor was he opposed to improvements at the elementary school. He explained his belief was that there was simply a more cost effective way.

Prior to moving into executive session, the board discussed approving GISD to become a District of Innovation.

“Becoming a District of Innovation will give Grapeland ISD more local control and allows the district more flexibility to implement programs and procedures that best fit the needs of our students, staff, parents and community,” the GISD Superintendent said.

He added it would give GISD more local control over matters such as the school year start date, certification flexibility, class size ratio and student attendance. In essence, it would basically give GISD some of the same allowances charter schools receive, Spivey explained.

The board unanimously approved a resolution to move forward on the matter and appointed a committee to make recommendations on how to best achieve District of Innovation status. The committee will be comprised of GISD Superintendent Gregg Spivey; Secondary Principal Rick Frauenberger; Elementary Principal Don Jackson; Dean of Students Joel Barbosa; elementary teachers Judith Currie and Amy Howard; junior high teacher Angie Conner; high school teacher Will Watson; parent representative Ashley Corns; and community member Mike Richmond.

The trustees also addressed future construction of a baseball field at the athletic complex location.

“Regardless of what happens in May or next May, if we ever build an elementary school, it will be on our property so we don’t have to purchase it. I feel like as a board, we need to make a decision so we can start looking for funding in the current budget, as well as future budgets, to build a baseball complex out by the softball field,” Childress said.

Childress added he and the superintendent could begin to see if there were any funds available in the current budget and also initiate the allocation of monies from the general fund in future years to finance the project.

Spivey indicated the current field was not in the best of shape and repair work had already been done on the light poles.

“Something has to be done soon anyway. The logical move would be to move it down there with all the other athletic facilities,” he said.

“Regardless of whether the bond passes, the baseball field needs to be built. This will give us a trajectory over the next – at least two years – to make that happen,” Childress said.

Following a brief discussion, the matter was put to a vote and approved.

In other matters brought before the GISD Board of Trustees:

  • The board approved a resolution and joint election agreement with the City of Grapeland and the Grapeland Hospital District.
  • The board approved the notice of the May 6 trustee election.
  • Approval was given to Policy Update 107.
  • Consent agenda items were approved.

Will Johnson may be contacted via e-mail at wjohnson@messenger-news.com.